The ApunKaChoice movie review of Mary Kom. An inspiring biopic on any boxer has to be as much about the fight within as about the fight without. Just as a win in the boxing ring is also a reflection of the pugilist’s triumph within -- triumph not just against the obvious odds stacked up by the world, but against the personal whims and desires that tempt one away from chasing one’s dream.
Mary Kom, a biopic of the Olympic bronze medalist and five-time world champion boxer Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom tells the inspiring story of both these fights but with less directorial finesse than such a telling demanded.
Priyanka Chopra plays the freckle-faced, pugnacious Manipuri girl Mary, born in a poor family of a farmer and brought up in a state riven with insurgency. The film opens on a pregnant Mary and slides into flashbacks depicting her struggle to be a champ boxer. Defying parental opposition to her dream of being a boxer, and picking fights with bully boys on the streets, Mary gets herself enrolled into a boxing training academy with her steely resolve and persistence against repeated rebuffs from the stern coach Narjit Singh (Sunil Thapa). And once Mary gets rolling, there’s no stopping her. She punches her way to state and national level championships, but squanders a flourishing career when she decides to marry and have kids.
Personal crisis offsets conjugal bliss as Mary Kom discovers that life without boxing neither brings her dignity (she’s offered the job of a hawaldar), nor contentment of being an inspiration to those who hold her as a role model. Mary’s supportive husband Onler (Darshan Kumar) prods her to pick up the gloves again. Will Mary, a wife and mother of two, make a stellar comeback and silence the snobbish officials at the boxing federation? Or will she throw in the towel before putting up her best fight?
Writer Saiwyn Quadras does a swell job of weaving warp and woof the tale of Mary Kom the boxer and Mary Kom the wife and mother. Director Omung Kumar peppers it with commercial tropes to make it appealing for not just the connoisseurs but also the masses at large. A tale like Mary Kom’s had to have that broad appeal. Omung manages this feat not without the rustiness of a debutant filmmaker.
The attempt to punch in a few tear-jerking moments is all to deliberate. Priyanka Chopra’s affected north-eastern accent is a put-off. The songs (Shashi Suman and Shivam) lack the verve the subjected required. Cinematographer Keiko Nakahara cranks a confident camera even though producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s editing is a bit jerky.
Mary Kom (watch trailer here) wouldn’t have been half the film it is without Priyanka Chopra. Physical transformation apart, the actor gets a boxer’s body language bang on. Her Mary is a fierce fighter one moment, a giggly girl the next. The climactic fight, where Mary has to stretch every sinew and muscle and tap into the last reserve of energy to clinch herself a win, will have you on the edge of your seat. Putting in a very restrained and nuanced performance opposite her is Darshan Kumar. He’s an actor to look out for.
On the sidelines, Sunil Thapa fits the bill as the dour, stern coach and Shakti Singh excels as said slimy official of the boxing federation.
In a nutshell, Mary Kom may not be a perfect, well-crafted biopic but it’s sure as a Mary punch an inspiring tale.